With all the great last minute ski holidays available, taking a short break to the snow has become an accessible option to almost anybody. Anybody who can ski, that is! But don’t let a little thing like being an absolute ski novice stop you, because with just a few lessons with a qualified instructor, most people can master the basics in a fairly short time. |
While you can't learn to ski without actually physically doing it, learning a little about what gear is needed and its purpose, before you set off on your last minute ski holiday will give you some added confidence.
Ski boots come in a vast range of styles and quality – depending on budget and purpose. They are made of durable polymer plastics, which provide maximum support to your ankles, feet and lower legs, while also being able to offer manoeuvrability and flex – in effect transferring the movements you make to your skis. They 'click' in to the bindings attached to the ski.
Ski Gloves, Jackets and Suits
You'll need a decent pair of thermal ski gloves or mittens, a good quality waterproof jacket and trousers, or a full ski suit. Don’t think you can get away with a pair of track suit pants or leggings, because you'll soon find out after a few spills (and you'll be enjoying plenty) that snow is not only cold, but also wet. Most clothing intended specifically for skiing will include the words 'waterproof' and/or 'thermal'.
In many European countries, wearing a ski helmet is obligatory for under-15s, but for no matter what your age it is highly recommended for your own safety. Helmets come in full-face, half shell, or full shell, offering different levels of protection. Some now come with a custom fit option, meaning they can be adjusted to your exact head size. It's imperative your helmet is 'certified' (carrying the European 'CE' mark), and if you do sustain an impact that's hard enough to cause a dent or crack, it should be replaced.
Ski goggles are more than just a fashion statement - although they do make you look pretty cool. A good set of goggles reduces glare, increases contrast for better vision, keeps out the cold and any debris, and protects your eyes in the event of a fall or collision. A good quality pair of polycarbonate, anti-fog goggles can make all the difference to your comfort and safety.
The most important piece of equipment needed is, of course, a set of skis. Just like the boots, there are thousands of variations, including different width, weight, and length, but the basic idea of two planks of wood attached to your feet to get you down a snow-covered mountain hasn't changed all that much in centuries – albeit their construct is from carbon fibre, fibreglass, or plastics these days. There are different skis for varying purposes (off-piste, downhill, freestyle, racing, slalom etc.) and also specific styles for men and women.
The 'base' of the ski refers to the underside, which affects the traction; the 'tip' is the curved up front of the ski, which affects manoeuvrability; and the 'edges' refer to the thin inside and outside surfaces of the skis, which help control turning.
Poles are a vital piece of equipment to help with balance and propulsion across the slopes. They need to be both strong and light, so the best ones are made from carbon fibre or aluminium. They have a 'basket' near the base, which prevents them from going too deep into the snow, and a 'grip' and strap at the top, enabling a comfortable grasp and less chance of losing them in a fall.
The binding or 'fix' is what secures the ski boot to the ski. They lock in, but are designed to release easily in the event of a fall, to reduce the chances of injury. The engineering of the binding determines the quality of the messages you transfer to your skis via your body movements - therefore affecting your overall control.
Skiing is a totally addictive sport and, even for a beginner, booking one of the great-value last minute ski holidays might be just what you need to kick-start a lifelong passion.
Belinda Smythson works for Ski Amis, a specialist ski travel agency and booking service that has been helping avid skiers craft their perfect winter holiday for over a quarter of a century. If you're looking for last minute ski holidays in the Three Valleys, Paradiski, Espace Killy or Chamonix Valley, Ski Amis is the go-to company for winter sports fans searching for the holiday of a lifetime.
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